Former 2:24 marathoner, now in my late 40s and hoping to maximally flatten the curve of my slide into senescence and mediocrity • Magazine writer, book editor and author, and commentator on the sport of distance running since 1999 • Adviser and confidant of other perambulators • Paradoxical hater of exercise fanatics • Chihuahua whisperer Sentence-fragment impresario

Sunday, March 31, 2019

The shit-processor: Part 2 of why running is no place to achieve (the good kind of) fame


I imagine the everyday American media consumer as consisting almost entirely of a round, anus-like construct between two and three feet in diameter and about six to eight inches thick, pulsating and pink and ringed with exactly the kind of inelegant detritus you'd expect to find on the fringes of a less-than-perfectly-tended bunghole. This repugnant disk -- and hell, let's just call it an asshole for ease of description -- serves as the nominal head of the beast, and is centered about five feet off the ground, supported by a single stork-like leg; the ostensible purpose of this is to keep the asshole from rolling away on terrain that is not level, but its primary function is more sinister.

In case you haven't gotten the picture yet: The typical human being you see on the street is basically a 150-pound flesh-colored Dilly Bar with an extra stick, with a winking, rasping shit-pore smack in the middle instead of a nodule of chocolate coating left as a marker of the manufacturing process.

Monday, March 25, 2019

The "sport" of distance running will never be popular (and why this is mostly a good thing), Part 1

Since you've all been refreshing this page dozens of times a day to check for a follow-up to my posts(1, 2, 3) about my experience with the ever-more-decrepit and hopefully moribund Outside Online, the only response from their end was an affirmation that no official response would be forthcoming. At least that's how I interpreted this:


Remarkably, she has managed to convince herself – or so it seems – that my posts were just out-of-the-blue random vitriol, and that the various coaches and interviewees involved in the mess at my end basically do not exist or do not have legitimate concerns, possibly because none of them happen to have ovaries.

To sum up the events:
  • Editor approves query and assigns article
  • Editor does virtually zero work on the piece for nine months while dispatching a series of e-mails intended only to placate the sender
  • Article progressively loses relevance thanks to shifting issues specified at various points by the writer
  • Writer loses patience and flips the game board
  • Editor sees (wholly predictable, in my view) response 
  • Editor apparently figures with a sigh that if nothing else the angry writer has solved the problem for her, giving her license to "just sit this one out." Honestly.
More than establishing that this editor is globally useless – in fact, while she may be lazy, dishonest, and even cowardly in her official capacity, she is far from stupid and has written some solid stuff outside the running milieu, which I will leave to you to locate because I am not out to either Google-bomb or help anyone here – the way this all unfolded implies exactly the kind of passivity and torpor that writers who have flitted around this pitiful industry for a while have come to expect of the staff of any publication or website where running plays a prominent role.

The reason is simple: Very few people in America besides distance runners give a shit about distance running as a "sport," and you can safely bet your trivial and banal life that nothing will ever change this. As a consequence, those working in managerial positions (including editors) at these publications have no extrinsic impetus to display competence, let alone excellence, at their paying jobs. Many of them are busy concocting grander fitness-world plans for themselves, which is cool and all, but in most cases these ideas are pipe dreams at best.

I'm on the road now with Rosie in a banged-up car, having just driven through parts of the United States with problems that would be best solved by carefully excising these places with a trowel the size and shape of Tennessee and catapulting the whole manure- and Jesus-laden mess in the general direction of Cassiopeia; I also have my own actual work to catch up on. So the bulk of this will have to wait.


But do keep eagerly refreshing the page, hundreds of times a day, as the next installment will focus on the main reasons women's athletics are unfortunately given the shaft, a discussion of how not even the sort of tawdriness that draws a few new fans into niche sports can boost the overall profile of track and field, and a review of a few athletes who would be considered international demigods if they were major-league team players instead of highly proficient joggers. Sadly, it will even mention Dean Karnazes, who may or may not be alive and running these days.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Vigilantism looks better and better every day

I'll try to describe an event that took place on Saturday without littering it with too many editorial comments en route. That way, I can pack almost all of my unrestrained hate into a few dismal paragraphs at the end, where all of you who read that far will be punished for your morbid fascination with the words of someone who fantasizes about depositing all but nine of you into massive porta-john and launching it toward the moon, using powerful binoculars to ensure seeing the septic projectile smash into the surface of our only natural satellite with lethal force amid a silent but awe-inspiring explosion of shit, plastic, bungwipe, blue chemical, and -- count on it -- a few stray cell phones.

I left home at about 11:20 to watch the Jerry Quiller Classic, the first of two home meets the University of Colorado hosts every spring. Because C.U. (and it really should be "U.-Col," in the spirit of "U.-Conn," since nobody asked) doesn't enter its best runners and no good teams show up -- which understandable because the college indoor track season officially ended just a week ago and  mid-March rarely presents good racing conditions -- this would be an easy one to pass on watching. But a lot of my friends were entered, it was actually nice out, and Rosie likes to be out from under a roof and moving around as much as possible. So a cheerful obligation this became.

Although Potts Field is only a mile away on foot and I run past the track early in my runs (meaning, near the beginning the middle or the end) at least once or twice a week, I decided to drive over in jogging garb and do a run at noon, after the 1,500-meter races and well before the other distance events. (When one usually considers 5 miles to be a full day's work, one finds the challenge of "squeezing in" runs laughably easy.)

As is often the case on somewhat ill-fated adventures, this one started off on a series of positive notes, which I believe amounts to a positive melody or at least an optimistic arpeggio sound. (Just as often, people who run into problems describe everything in the previous hour as some kind of omen. Retrospective analysis is great because anything you think might be correct, you can declare true by incontestable fiat.) We did the first part of this on the Skunk Creek Path east of the track, then merging onto the Boulder Creek Path and heading under Arapahoe Ave and the Foothills Parkway. We jogged along with some people who had just raced and some others who were going to. We met John and Linus, one of whom is a dog named after a scientist and the other a chiropractor with a 3:42 1,500-meter best. The day was cloudless and almost breeze-free and the midday sun was warming the air quickly.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

When life is a living hell

...because App Satan is destined to ensure that you never get to say the words "I walked three miles" and really, totally mean it.


This comment thread continues to be an absolute gold mine of people trying to outdo each other on the First World Problems scale. Every once in a while someone who is clearly on the autism spectrum checks in and fucks it up by giving a clear view of just how painful this "gimme my hundredth of a mile in real time" stuff actually is for some folks, but for the most part it's a joyless merry-go-round of some of the strangest grievances I have ever seen in this terribly disfigured running world of ours.

I have a friend who says cyclists are far worse about shit of this nature, so it's reassuring to know that as always, there's always a layer of slime separating runners from the bottom of the sporting barrel, now for the most part a large cask of drug-soaked piss.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Orts aplenty

On the first Friday evening of 2018, a couple of bastards from Texas tried to screw me. This was not a complete surprise; bastards (and here I mean this word maliciously, not descriptively or even truthfully) are everywhere, and bastards, at least by my definition, attempt to sexually penetrate others with tiresome regularity. In this respect, and indeed in others, they resemble fuckers; some even dabble in motherfuckery. Just yesterday, I tracked the bastards* down and shot them both in the back of the head, double-tap, splat split, with a plastic pistol loaded with my own septic urine, and now the show is over; every falsifiable sentence in this paragraph is true except for this one.

Now that I've weeded out the lightweights, some quick background: I just replaced the mirror that was mortally wounded in this episode, and was reminded by the crass negligence of the unknown perpetrator of an incident that took place at about 7:30 on a Friday evening early in the 2018 yare. In that instance, I was at the wheel of a friend's car and, while preparing to ease out of a parking spot onto the quiet street, was lightly side-swiped by a passing minivan. There were no witnesses. Neither I nor my passenger, the car's owner, was hurt, and it was unimaginable that anyone in the other car was, either. My friend either called the non-emergency police number or stuck her head out the window and yelled "NEED SOME FUCKING COPS OVER HERE, PLEASE!"; I think it was the former, but as fucked up as I was on bath salts, my memory is shaky, other than knowing with certainly the precise details of the incident I am describing here. I do know that my friend had put me on her insurance policy at some point because I drove her car so often, but this turned out to be irrelevant.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

"This one got a little stalled" (or: Pulling the plug, part 2)

Were my editors mostly lazy about dealing with my article or mostly lying about planning to publish it in the first place? You decide! (Feel free to present other possibilities for me to shoot down.) And if you get stuck, try this: On December 10, two days after her last look at the Google document holding my article draft, the main editor launched a women's running online newsletter. That's great! Except when you're already shirking your duties at your day job and telling your freelancers your Outside plate is perpetually far too full to keep up with. (Some people can do more than one writing-related thing at a time; others plainly can't.)

Since my first post about this just two days ago, input from a number of readers with personal and second-hand experience suggests that having business dealings with Outside almost invariably comes coupled to various degrees of misery. Somewhat more to my surprise, it seems that Outside's star has fallen drastically in the eyes of most longtime readers since the current crew took over and decided that, among other things, the fitness world needed its own version of Jezebel. And to the extent that anyone in a position to at least put a tourniquet near the wound even hears of these gripes, I suppose they could attribute this apparent shift in popular opinion to people like me being too old to appreciate their jazzed-up mission, but they could also consider the possibility that they've been systematically ruining a formerly esteemed source of real information, and are forcefully unprofessional in any case.

If it's typical for people to not get paid for almost six months after invoicing Outside, I'm guessing one of one or more things will happen soon. The will either pay their freelancers less, which they can easily get away with because as it is they're running garbage a lot of up-and-comers would happily barf up for the publishing credit alone (and to be fair, $600 for 700 or so words in this industry is generous, although it's far less so it's never actually paid); they will shift their model away from page views- or clicks-for-revenue toward something else, and simply run fewer articles from random writers; or they will get really drunk, tell each other falsely "We tried our best!" and proceed to burn the offices down for the insurance money, which will then arrive 171 days late. 

Ironically, the only things I'm tempted to be embarrassed about concerning this whole fiasco are how polite I was in my e-mails after about the first four months of this shit, and the way I effused dishonestly over unremarkable feedback in in effort to get a mediocre editor to run the damn piece. I think, though, that the lack of a basic acknowledgment of my message from the editor-in-chief was really what bothered me the most; that's just a classless move, one no one would have gotten away with before social media came along and normalized being unproductive as hell at media jobs.

I should invoice the company just for the thousands of words I dedicated to trying to get meaningful attention from this bonehead.

When I look back on this, I expect my predominant source of aggravation will be having talked at length to so many people who believed, rightfully, that their words and efforts would appear in a media outlet and therefore not be wasted. Because of this editor's airy inattention to the entire show, I contend that she has screwed all of them over as well.

On a final note, I know exactly what the fatal flaw with my piece was, and there is absolutely nothing I could have done to facilitate its publication other than change some of the names of the people involved. I have left clues about this, but anyone who has already gone even partway down the rabbit hole with this knows what I'm talking about.

From: Kevin Beck <kemibe@gmail.com>
To: <M****@shitmag.com>
Tue, May 29, 2018 at 3:18 PM

Hi M****,

**** tells me you're the go-to person for pitches. I'm a former senior writer for Running Times and have been a frequent contributor to other outlets that. like RT, are now either dead or moribund. It's somewhat surprising that Outside has come to feature the best running content of any of the remaining publications, but with RW having morphed into a version of SELF or Prevention, I'm thankful!

My idea is perhaps not what you're generally looking for, but I do think it's a story.

Running is disappearing from the U.S. conversation; the early promise of the internet to help raise its profile is being compromised by consolidation in the streaming world that’s making it harder than ever to follow the sport, even at a grassroots level. Track fans are sliding toward endangered-species status. But while distance runners and their fans often bemoan the low visibility of road racing and track and field, but in the finest American tradition, complaining is about all anyone does.

In New Hampshire, an unlikely alliance of involving coaches, a running store, and a timing company has produced a heartening situation: A pair of websites created in recent years by active high-school coaches now offer free live-streaming of all of the New Hampshire state championship meets as well as a host of midseason invitationals. Often, commentary is provided by a blend of current coaches, recently graduated (e.g., collegiate) NH athletes, and people's parents. They do a slew of interviews. It is all centered on a positive presentation without it being nothing but a series of vacuous promos, if that makes sense.

The webcasts are pretty sophisticated, with onscreen clocks and, in the case of cross-country, multiple cameras set up at different point around the course to capture entire races. And in a wag-the-dog aspect of all of this, kids and coaches are actually using the webcasts to scout each other and plot race strategy.

I don't know if you've heard of Flotrack or MileSplit, the for-profit, ramshackle operations who have a near-monopoly on streaming events these days, but NHTrackAndField puts what they do to absolute shame, and again, at no charge. That itself is a big deal.

I'd like to write about exactly how this came into being, because it could serve as a model for others to follow. The big ideas are that 1) the coaches and others behind this are dedicating enormous amount of time to this with no promise of monetary reward (or more accurately, a guarantee of no financial reward) and are doing so because 2) their goal is to greatly elevate the profile of track and field/XC and the kids who do it. And it's working, albeit in a state with 1.4 million people.

Let me know if this sounds like anything you're interested in, and if not I am sure to pester you with other ideas in due time. Getting Alex was a huge score for Outside, but you have others doing fine things in the running realm as well.

Kevin
--------
On Fri, Jun 1, 2018 at 1:10 PM M**** wrote:

Hey Kevin,

Thanks for the note and the kind words! I do think there's a story here. (I'm actually from NH, so that may have biased me just a little.) I think this would work best at around 1200 words, largely how you described it: first, detailing the efforts in NH and tying that back to the broader issues we see in the sport and what the rest of the running community could learn from this subculture. We generally pay $600 for stories like this one. How does all that sound to you?

Let me know if you have any questions or concerns!

M****
--------

Monday, March 4, 2019

Inside a movement to elevate youth running

This was originally supposed to be appear in Outside Online. As I've explained, I decided I wasn't going to wait forever for the editors to get around to publishing it. And this is not a purely spiteful move; even after accounting for my obvious resentment, from a practical standpoint, developments over the past nine months have rendered the piece almost worthless. To name just one, Flotrack executed a "takeover" of the webcast of the Massachusetts All-State Indoor Championships on Feb. 23 that BaystateRunning.com was originally going to produce (I don't know the details). I was not surprised, but if this piece had run last summer or fall, it might not have altered this or related outcomes, but it may well have given people some ideas and catalyzed communication between coaches and other players in different states.

Outside doesn't operate using contracts, which is only one of its endemic editorial problems, so I'm not in violation of anything here except for possibly exercising bad judgment in throwing away the $600 they ostensibly planed to pay me for my work. Besides, the accounts payable side of Outside is apparently as dismal as its editorial arm.

I actually gave up months ago on Outside publishing this in a timely or usefully edited manner, but for a while afterward, I continued to grudgingly acknowledge that if I deep-sixed the arrangement, far fewer people would learn of the efforts of the people profiled than if I contained my exasperation and waited. After all, Outside may want for competence, but it offers a far larger platform than this electronic urinal ever could.

Then I admitted: No one outside the region in question really cares anyway. Men and women who have been involved with youth running for a long time might appreciate the occasional spotlight being shined on their efforts, but it's not what motivates them. Anyone who has ever coached high-school sports gets this.

I hope everyone understands how absurd it is to have a piece accepted for publication by a paying, professional entity ($600 is not chump change in the running-writing niche, which is to the greater world of publishing world what Top Ramen is to fine cuisine). As I noted in the chain of correspondence between myself and the editor that I will post as soon as I decide what, if anything, to redact from it, even when I was writing for print publications, I never experienced anything remotely close to this level of delay, neglect and all-around bullshit. I expect Outside to eventually be purchased by a Chinese billionaire and somehow made even worse as a result for everyone but the dickheads who own it.

Anyway, enjoy!


American running fans usually accept that their sport represents a very small slice of the media pie. For example, ESPN’s 2018 list< of the 100 most famous names in sports didn’t include a single track and field or road-running athlete, and neither did their accompanying list of the 25 most famous sportswomen. And unsurprisingly, traditional outlets haven’t jumped to seize broadcasting rights to most track and road events, with the exception of national championships.

As a result, most live-streaming of the sport happens on a trio of sites: FloTrack, NBC Sports Gold, and USATF.tv. As a rule, running fans aren’t happy with either the pricing or the output, citing grievances ranging from announcers’ bad math to the quality of the video streams. As former pro runner Lauren Fleshman tweeted earlier this year: “Did the math, it costs $339.86 (including a discount going on right now) to watch track and field per year between three digital subscriptions.”

In the state of New Hampshire, which has a population of 1.4 million, a unique experiment aimed at addressing these issues got underway a couple of years ago. A coalition of coaches, business owners and parents began producing and delivering high-quality Internet streams of many of the state’s high-school cross-country and track meets -- and at no cost to viewers. Lest this be seen as a limited undertaking suited for a small state, it’s vital to note that the motivation for this -- to elevate the profile of youth running and legitimize the efforts of the kids and their supporters -- is universal among running fans, and that the model has in fact already spread.

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Pulling the plug, part 1

This morning, I somewhat mysteriously lost a draft of a "potpourri"-style post that would have detailed a range of uninteresting topics. There was a section describing how painful it is to watch track announcers try to give splits and projected times in a mile or two-mile race held on an indoor metric track, because almost no one gets this right. There was a passage about how funny it is that Ohio and Colorado are in the same Foot Locker Cross Country region, and how two kids who live in cities connected by I-80 over 1,600 miles apart, Grand Junction and Youngstown, could meet at the Midwest Regional Championship held every November in Wisconsin. There was a brief and pointless analysis of some heartfelt garbage assembled by a religiously ailing cretin who recently found this place and, after dribbling a bit of his opinion-spooge into a comment, decided to have a full-on blog-wank to his own various misapprehensions; talking to or even about people that brain-dead is generally a bad idea anyway, because a lot of them are charged with that special-needs brand of persistence that keeps people arguing well past the point where they should have pounded about a gallon of Drano and put themselves out of the Internet's misery.

It's just as well I lost all of that shit, because it was just more noise. Harmless, but as superfluous in the grand scheme as the rest of the jibber-jabber my feeble hate-scape of a mind has concocted and my fumbling fingers have then converted to a form most of you can cognitively process, albeit to a shockingly limited extent in some cases, and in a way that leads some of you to respond in ways that make me wonder if, and how, you manage to feed yourself unassisted, and what sort of grim detritus would be found caking your unkempt anus if someone were ambitious enough to investigate.

I have long assumed that as long as my relationships with my friends and family members were up to snuff, I wouldn't agonize about how painfully incompetent, dishonest, or malicious Earthlings as a rule are. You don't even have to be capable, wise, or decent yourself to grasp how feckless this species is, and to appreciate what a dangerously rotted branch it represents on the evolutionary tree. Sadly, by the time we manage to do something righteous for once and wipe ourselves out, instead of just sawing that one deadweight branch off, we'll take out the whole goddamn forest and leave our morbid ass-prints behind for the next round of creatures to ponder, should they ever emerge from the smoldering 60-million-square-mile landfill we bequeath

Obviously, this is not the case, and probably wouldn't be even if I were a zillionaire with no need to interact at all with anyone else on a "professional" level (and I'm using quotation marks to emphasize the fact that money changing hands alone doesn't make a transaction "professional"). I would still hate society even if I could become as detached from it as possible without actually being institutionalized or killing myself, and I'm counting on escaping this shitshow via the latter route, though not imminently. And you can all relax, because as much as you probably deserve to be culled from the mammalian herd, I am not the sort of dickwad who dreams of taking others out out of spite. This is not because I am a humanist; it's because life is a prison and I find more pleasure in the idea of shit

All of which is a preamble to describing a situation that began as annoying and has since progressed to being dully infuriating and a howl by turns.

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Boys in girls' races

"Boys don't belong on girls' sports teams" is about the most noncontroversial assertion imaginable. Yet in a country where unpopular positions are invariably rewarded because someone, somewhere, is always quick to equate fighting the social tide with righteousness and courage, it is.

There is no need to pedantically explore the differences between being biologically intersexed and choosing to conduct oneself as a member of the opposite gender, or between formally transitioning from male to female and choosing to conduct oneself as a member of the female gender. I understand that some people experience an undeniable conflict between the sex of the body they were given and the one their minds are compelled to identify with. Neither of these issues justifies boys competing in girls' races.